"Like I said, it's just exciting to see those guys do well because they put in the work, put in the time in Manchester, now it's paying off for them."
So much was written at the outset of this series about these teams' so-called top lines: the Kings' Anze Kopitar facing off against Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. As so often happens when power goes against power, those two great centers have taken turns neutralizing each other. Toews was a force early in Game 3 with two first-period goals, but the Kings' scored three unanswered goals before the Hawks scored with 4.2 seconds left in regulation.
While the Kopitar line has been dormant for the most part over the past four periods (and a bit going back to late in the second period of Game 2), the Kings outscored the Blackhawks 10-3, and much of that damage has been done by the Carter trio, a group some are calling "that 70s line" (because they all wear numbers in the 70s and there was a TV show -- oh, never mind, you get it).
We prefer to draw a line, even if it's a dotted line back to the "two kids and an old goat" imagery, if only because the group's dynamic has the potential to be the defining element in this series.
Luc Robitaille, the Kings' president of business operations, was in Detroit when the "old goat" line was formed. He laughed when asked about a new version in Los Angeles and pointed out that Carter isn't nearly in "old goat" mode yet. But he said the group's influence in the dressing room cannot be overstated.
"Oh, it's so much fun, because you just see their work ethic," Robitaille told ESPN.com Saturday night. "It's amazing. They get out there and every loose puck they just jump. They've been such a spark for us ever since the San Jose series."
One of the knocks on both Pearson and Toffoli coming out of junior was that their skating might hold them back.
Not much of an issue for either youngster, as it turns out.
"I'm surprised at Tanner because last year; I give him a lot of credit, he really worked on his skating, and he looks so fast out there. And I didn't know he had it. He's been flying out there," Robitaille said.
"We've always known they're really smart players. You look at their pedigree. Every year, these kids have produced. But to see their work ethic and them to adjust to our system, that's why I have a lot of respect for these guys.
"You never feel we're in danger when they're on there."
Just as Hull never quite got the credit for his two-way hockey, especially on the Dallas and Detroit teams that won Cups, Carter has proven to be the ultimate stabilizing force for the Pearson-Toffoli duo.
"He's so smart. Jeff, for us, he's so good in our own end," Robitaille said. "He doesn't get credit for how good he is in his own end, and you saw in the Olympics, by the end of the Olympics they were using him in every facet because they knew, this guy's great."
Carter, for his part, has gone along good naturedly with having to answer for his two young linemates.
"It's been great," Carter said Saturday. "Obviously, they have a lot of chemistry from playing together in Manchester. They're working and they're having fun. They use their speed and their skill to create opportunities. Kind of dragging me along with them, so it's been good."
Certainly, Toffoli and Pearson give no indication they have anything but admiration, if not a little reverence, for their elder statesman center.